11 October 2006

Cowboy Diplomacy Comes Full Circle

President Bush in autocratic zeal remains myopically focused on justifying his war in Iraq. He holds steadfast in his saddle, atop his horse wielding his branding iron and searing the posterior of nations and even American citizens with a "wit us" or "agin' us" white hot brand.

That gallop was not even tempered in the wake of a nuclear device being detonated by North Korea approximately 75 miles from the China - North Korea border. Now, little more than 48 hours after the event, the United States is the only country in the world refusing to officially confirm the details of the event, choosing instead to spin the shocking test and threats to the United States as "not unusual and not new for the North Koreans to be provocative". When Tony Snow was asked "So what went wrong?" The response was "I'm not sure anything went wrong." This follows directly in line with an established modus operandi of the Bush administration - deny then rationalize. To acknowledge the enormity of this event is to cast a spotlight on the utter misdirection of this administration. Attempts to downplay this outrageous act are preposterous.

North Korea's Historic nuclear test was followed by threats to attack the United States with a nuclear missile if its demands go unmet. Their ability or inability to accomplish that is secondary to the supporting issue of their unfettered ability to gain the strategic position that turned the unthinkable into reality - the act of issuing the United States a nuclear ultimatum. An environment amenable to emboldening a rogue state clearly exists. That in itself presents compelling evidence of a structural failure in the foreign relations balance that must be maintained by the US as a world superpower.

North Korea has certainly been a menace even before Bush took the White House. However, recognized and acknowledged (even by this White House) are the requisite ingredients for attempting that balance with North Korea. Full attention to a process of give and take - "carrots and sticks" Tony Snow called it yesterday in his press briefing. This administration and its spokesperson say that now as if they have worked to maintain that balance. In reality, this administration's first real response to North Korea was to label it a member of Bush's "axis of evil". Was this an inexcusable indifference to the matter? I find, as per the norm for the Bush administration and its preoccupation with making nefarious links, it's quite interesting to review the links below the surface of the Bush White House / North Korea relationship.

Through his final days in office, President Clinton had been working to ease tensions with North Korea. A disarmament proposal was delivered to North Korea, he had eased economic sanctions, and then the US led consortium signed the deal to give North Korea two light-water reactors. A very controversial deal, a substantial carrot offered to defuse the immediate threat of North Korea's readiness to abandon all restraint. Bush came into office while the ink on that deal was still drying. It should have been clear that North Korea was at the forefront of foreign policy issues requiring attention from the new President.

ABB had been awarded the contract to deliver systems and equipment for the light water reactors in North Korea. Quite interesting is the fact that Donald Rumsfeld was on the board of ABB when it was awarded the project, and until 2001, earning from that position $190,000 a year. While having a fiduciary interest in the deal, Mr. Rumsfeld's indignation over North Korea's possible nuclear proliferation was nowhere to be found. That tune changed of course after he took office. He left ABB to join the Bush administration. Just months after Rumsfeld took office, President Bush ended all negotiations and diplomatic strides initiated by Clinton. Bush told the Washington Post then (2001) "I loathe [North Korea's leader] Kim Jong-il." In January 2002 Bush named North Korea as a member of the "axis of evil". After Baghdad fell, Mr. Rumsfeld said North Korea should draw the "appropriate lesson". The threat that North Korea has presented was met by this administration with little to no diplomacy or effort to normalize relations and a great deal of flippant sanctimony and expressions of that admitted loathing.

This is our President - whose North Korea policy has for 6 years been wait until they launch. This same President who subsequently makes a reckless statement that "Democrats just want to wait until we're attacked again." This same President who, while squandering our political, diplomatic and military capital obsessing over the control and occupation of Iraq, has waited...waited and ignored clear threats to our nation's security. Waited and ignored the responsibility of the office of the President to address foreign policy as more than the egregious pursuit of his own personal, political agenda.

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